Live From Munich

King Over the Water

It's after midday, Tuesday, when the boys in the band begin to drift down from their rooms in the Hilton Hotel to the lobby.  Gallagher himself strolls casually through, inconspicuous as a shadow, but not sufficiently so to avoid ambush from a scattering of autograph hunters. Minutes later he is sprawled on a huge settee, a glass of iced Apollinaris mineral water before him, talking at first hesitantly about himself. As he talks, it becomes clear that he could not conceivably have ever become anything other than a full-time guitar man.


After growing out of a Woolworth's childhood ukulele, he got his first wooden acoustic at the age of nine.  The man across the street tuned it for him and armed with a chord book of Lonnie Donegan's greatest hits, he taught himself.

"You know the thing:  dots mean fingers and the stripes mean strings.  Even today, I can't read music.  I'd have been lost without the boxes."

Trying to get a rock group together in showband-strewn Cork wasn't easy, but in his early teens he played with the Fontana who later became the Impact Showband.

"It really wasn't my thing, the whole scene was tied up, but when you're 14 you can't really argue with getting onstage and playing through a 30-watt amplifier."

At lease one collector's item must exist in some quantity from these days.  Rory played lead guitar on Art Supple and the Victors' 'Pop Go the Showbands' hit.  It was the Irish response to the Barron Knights' 'Call up the Groups'.

And it was also the archetypal showband number- a take-off on a take-off.

The year of '65 saw Taste formed in its pilot version.  They even played Hamburg "not like the Beatles but long enough to know what they went through."

Southern Ireland was a hotbed of religious Puritanism at the time- much more in the grip of Mother Church than today.  The ballrooms closed down for Lent.  Pleasure was almost always vaguely sinful.

But bands had to make money and Gallagher used the Lenten abstinences to play London.  They afforded him the opportunity to hear groups like Spencer Davis and the Yardbirds.

Back home, it wasn't Cork or Dublin, but Belfast that became the prime city of progressive music.  Here, beat groups mushroomed and they provided an outlet for the music that Taste (now in its second version with bassman Richie McCracken and drummer John Wilson) were playing.

For about a year in '68, Gallagher moved there to live.  Many many gigs ended at the Marquee Club with football matches between the band and the club's staff.

Prominent- if not very promising-players on the club's side at the time included one Collin McClelland who worked at the Marquee and a youthful Sammy Smith who managed Romano's Club, down the road apiece.

It was "Blister on the Moon" time.  Taste had that 'about-to-break' aura around them. Hero of the group scene was Van Morrison and Them. Gallagher looked in awe at them.  "I saw Van in a shop one day, but I hadn't got the nerve to say hello".

Taste hit rough times even then.  "I don't like bellyaching.  Every musician worth his salt has slept in a van in Hamburg or London or somewhere else with an empty stomach because you can't get gigs or you haven't the petrol, but I don't think we deserve any medal of honour for it."

Taste's tragedy was that they split up as they were about to break it in the United States.  There were management hassles which Gallagher prefers not to dwell on. He says he never had one argument with McCracken or Wilson, but they would probably have split anyway.

"It was one of those fiery bands, musically.  It's nice when it ends at the right point rather than dragging on.  We had great times together.  You have to have a lot of oil in bands to keep them running in good humour.  I dunno if I could stay in a band if I wasn't happy.

" The demise of Taste was, in effect, the debut of Gallagher as a real solo star and the release of the album, 'Live in Europe' in '72 and the 'Irish Tour' in '74 plus 'Against the Grain' and 'Top Priority' placed him in that far-flung firmament of the legends of modern music.

His band has seen personnel changes, but the present line-up of Gerry McAvoy on bass and Brendan O'Neill on drums looks like enduring.

Today, apart from brief holidays and spells in the studio, his life is spent on almost continuous tours.  His present tour of the Continent is his umpteenth; he has toured Australia twice, Japan three times and the U.S. 16 times.

Jos Remans photo from Kerkradeshow, Holland 1976

Blues wise, he was the crown of king over the water- unchallenged as a giant of the guitar.

Added to that, he has played with all his heroes.  At 30 odd, Rory Gallagher has lived out more of his fantasies- many a man surpassing that age by two thirds.

Playing with Jerry Lee Lewis was one of them.  "It was great.  That was in London five years back.  The trouble is when you go into a studio like that- you dunno whether to take out your autograph book or play with them, know what I mean?


"A lot of rock 'n Roll crazy guys turn out to be mechanical and pre-planned, but in the studio he is exactly the way his is onstage- maybe one per cent quieter, no more.

He has also played with Muddy Waters, but his real wish would be to play on a Bob Dylan session.  "That would be a real dream come true.

"He (Dylan) came backstage in the dressing room in Los Angeles.  In fact he nearly got thrown out backstage because some people thought he was an impostor, a Bob Dylan look alike; you get them in the States.

"He seemed to like the concert.  We talked about certain blues guys.  He brought his daughter and a few kids.  When you meet Bob Dylan with the hat on and the dark glasses, it's a bit like being in Madame Tussaud's- you don't know if it's real or not.

His favourite pastime, on tour in the U.S. in particular, is to visit the blues clubs.  "In America you can get into some places for the price of a beer and watch some legend playing who can't maybe get work outside Chicago and who maybe gets to Europe once every ten years on some folk/blues package; it's ridiculous".

Gallagher tours are now a mammoth operation run with a kind of military precision involving three trucks, a massive sound system, a light show and a back-up crew of up to 20 men.

"I thrive on touring.  It's like a blood transfusion.  But we still try to keep a grip on things.  Some bands are getting even more ridiculous.  We try to give people as good a light show as is realistic.

"We don't like to go into smoke bombs and a Cecil B. de Mille stage.  Everyone expects a good sound system these days and so they should.

"I used to do an Irish tour maybe once a year on the nail.  We just missed an Irish tour, but we'll be back during the year either for a festival or for a few gigs because it's too long to stay away.

"If an album gets delayed it throws things kinda askew, you'd be surprised.  There are a few months when you just don't release albums- that's November and December when all the Perry Como greatest hits albums are released.

"I use London as a working base, but I don't regard it as home.  Ireland is home, but for practical reasons London is the bus station."  Gallagher needs to tour.  It gives him the soul and inspiration for his song-writing.

"The kind of stuff I do really thrives on live audiences.  When some musicians stop touring their music gets soft and very bitty and loses that gritty edge.  As you travel, each day has that bit of tension.  Anything could go wrong.  I'll keep touring- even when I'm 50.  Chuck Berry still does it.  And Jerry Lee.

"I'm a blues player from the feeling point of view.  I write on different themes.  Some are fictional.  Some are personal.  I often build a song around a theme.

" I'm not one of your introverted singer/song-writers.  I write songs with different gritty themes.  Like 'Big Guns', that's a scorcher; a Mickey Spillane type of song and it's the ideal for rock and roll.  The best songwriters in rock n' roll are people like Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry.

 It is now highly likely that Rory Gallagher will make a radical departure from tradition by releasing a single, probably from his latest, wildly successful album, 'Jinx'.

Jos Remans photo from Kerkradeshow, Holland 1976


"We have talked about releasing the odd single- if only for the deejays who are too lazy to go down and pick up the album from the library, you now.

"I don't think I could actually plan a big singles campaign and do every kids' programme.

" Maybe, probably, we'll bring out a couple of tracks- 'The Devil Made Me Do It', 'Big Guns', --something like that, but more from the point of view of radio play.  It's the singles scene that I'm against.

Almost alone among musicians who have reached his dizzy heights of success and fame, Rory Gallagher is amazingly quiet.  Not a star-tripper.

He is his own hardest taskmaster.  But as a person he has changed little, if at all, in the years since he was a struggling musical nobody.

He puts this partly down to hardheaded Cork realism.  "There are plenty of sobering realities.  It's not very hard to keep cool.  You can balance the applause with other things."

He still wears the casual lumberjack check shirts and jeans that were his hallmark in the '60's.  "I don't go around in a white shirt or a silver shirt when I'm at home.  I actually like casual working clothes.  I can hardly go off and buy a space suit to keep people happy."

 He is fiercely dedicated to his life as a musician, but is moderate in drink and in women and is not into drugs.  At the same time he is reluctant to admonish those who have gone down the tubes of rock 'n roll excesses to join the lengthening list of sorry souls playing the great gig in the sky.


"Yeah, it's sad, obviously.  But even in ordinary jobs the stress and the drink can kill people.  I wouldn't wag a finger at anybody who has gone the drain.  The pace is fairly wild and there are a lot of ups and downs and bad luck and it's a very temporary sort of life.

"I'll get married and settle down sometime eventually, I suppose.  I'm a day-to-day person or a week-to-week person.  You have to live in the present as best you can."

And what about being very wealthy and that? "I know it sounds very pious, but as long as you can do alright and pay the bills, that's it isn't it?"

I need information on the source for this one.
It appears to be from thew early 80's and probably written by Bill Stuart

Thanks to John Wainwright for passing it along
Thanks Zetti Wood for typing this for me
Thanks to Jos Remans for the photos
reformatted by roryfan
 To Join The Loop
Mailing & Discussion List 
email roryfan at
 Back to main RoryON!! page
 Back to Articles page
Back to previous article
  Forward to next article